Getting Healthier Vegan Menu Monday

I survived my second 6am spinning class! Of course my behind is pretty sore and my quads (and legs) are still wiggly, but it’s worth it to meet my goals. I’m trying to take off a few pounds and get in shape. It can be a slow process, but I’m really working on keeping a positive attitude and eating fresh, healthy food really helps.

I got a csa style box of veggies from Tiny Farm  Saturday at the Durham Farmer’s Market and have tons of fresh heirloom tomatoes and green beans. I bought some cucumbers, lettuce, and tons of assorted berries to round out my week.

I made gazpacho and a chilled yellow beet soup as well for lunches. Salads topped with strawberries, blueberries, apples, nuts and herbs from the garden will be a welcome addition to lunches and dinners.  I may need to add in a cold bean or grain salad as well to round it my day out.

Monday: Tofu with green beans and carrots in black bean sauce over steamed brown rice

Tuesday: Taco salads with veggie chili, guacamole, heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and almond cheese topped with homemade pico de gallo

Wednesday: Fried brown rice with tons of veggies, portabella mushroom prepared pepper steak style

Thursday: Tunisian Sweet Potato Stew from fat free vegan made in the slow cooker served over whole wheat couscous

Friday: Veggie burgers on the grill with a side salad topped with fresh fruit and balsamic dressing

Saturday: Grilled polenta with veggies covered with a heirloom tomato pesto sauce with a Caesar salad and grilled corn on the cob

Sunday: Sloppy Lentils and steamed veggies -or- tacos with refried beans and guacamole


Pesto Anyone?

basilI have 3 kinds of basil this year Italian, lemon, and Thai all growing in my garden. Some are in the veggie bed and I have others in containers. If you have no space you can even grow some inside on a sunny window sill.

If you don’t have a garden you should be able to get locally grown basil at your farmers market, or local natural foods store at this time of the year. You can get fresh herbs in the winter, but they are expensive and they don’t taste as good to me.

Pesto is fragrant mixture of herbs and nuts ground into a thick paste with olive oil. And there are dozens of variations.

Traditional Basil Pesto

  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 – 1/2  cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional – add salt to taste if you are leaving out or use a vegan substitute)

Put basil, garlic, ¼ cup olive oil, nuts, and cheese if using into a food processor. Process the pesto using the pulse setting, so you can still have a few small chunks of nuts for texture. Add more oil if the mixture is too thick. Taste and add more garlic, salt, or cheese until you love what you have and can’t wait to eat it.

What to do with it?

  • Toss with pasta and top with fresh ground pepper
  • Spread on a pizza crust instead of red sauce
  • Put in mashed potatoes
  • Add into a soup (minestrone is great for this)
  • Mix into your scrambled tofu in the morning
  • Blend with silken tofu for a perfect dairy free dip

Ok, so I’ve sold you on trying to make pesto, but you don’t have any pine nuts? Or maybe your basil didn’t do so good this year. Now it’s time to get creative. First off you can substitute any nuts for the pine nuts. I used almonds in mine. Why not try pistachios or walnuts?

Use the recipe above for general proportions, but realize you will have to taste as you go even more since some herbs have a stronger taste than others. You’ll begin to notice how the oils of the bruised herbs smell mingled with the smell of the nut you chose.  And then you’ll know if you need to add more of another ingredient.

  • A few combinations to try:
  • Arugula (Rocket) and Pistachio
  • Oregano and Walnut
  • Sage with Pine nuts and a little lemon juice
  • Mint and Almond
  • Rosemary and hazelnut
  • Tarragon and no nuts at all

If you need more ideas take a look at this post on the gardenWeb herb forum.

Save your new creation for a winter surprise! Oil an ice cube tray and put your freshly made pesto into the slots. Once the cubes are frozen, remove them from the try and place into a freezer bag. Now in January they’ll be waiting to go into your steaming pot of minestrone!

Plain ‘Ole Gazpacho

gaz_smI thought I’d follow up with a basic gazpacho recipe, since I put a watermelon gazpacho out there. I love both of them, it just depends on what I have on hand.

If you don’t have any V-8 try using some chilled veggie broth and some extra tomatoes and puree them together to use as a base. You may need to add extra salt or herbs, but it will work just fine.

Plain ‘Ole Gazpacho

  • 4 cups heirloom tomato chunks (multiple colors are a plus)
  • 1 cucumber (peel it if  is not organic or is waxed)
  • 1 small green peppers
  • 1 lime or lemon, juiced
  • 1 – 2 cups tomato juice or a tomato based mixed vegetable drink like v-8
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil (use less if you are cutting down on fat or calories)
  • 2 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbs. fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. Salt (add more to taste at the end if needed)
  • Pepper to taste
  • Other fresh herbs that you have and want to add: oregano, thyme, basil, etc.

Mince the cucumber, green pepper, parsley, and extra herbs and set aside. Puree 1 cup of the tomato juice and everything else in a blender or food processor until relatively smooth. Add the extra cup of tomato juice if it’s still too thick for your liking. Add in the minced veggies and herbs. Stir with a spoon to mix everything together. Take a final taste and decide if you need to adjust the salt and pepper, or add any more herbs or lime juice. Once you’ve declared it ready, put it in the fridge to chill for an hour or so.

Pour chilled soup into individual cups or bowls. Garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley and a few drops of balsamic and olive oil if you want to be decadent.

Vegan Watermelon Gazpacho

watermelon_day_smNothing says summer has arrived like a chilled soup. When it’s so hot you’re sweating and the a/c is working as hard as it can, a chilled soup can make your whole day. Gazpacho is like a cool, liquid salad. It goes down easy, you don’t have to heat up the house to make it, and it cools you from the inside out. That’s my kind of hot weather dinner!

Watermelon Gazpacho

  • 3 cups watermelon chucks, seeded with rind removed
  • 2 cups heirloom tomato chunks
  • ½ cucumber (peeled if it is not organic or is waxed)
  • 1 small bell pepper (green is fine, but purple and yellow add a nice color)
  • 1 small hot pepper of your choice, seeded with the ribs removed, and chopped
  • 1 lime or lemon, juiced
  • ½ – 1 cup filtered water
  • 2 – 3 Tbs. olive oil (use less if you are cutting down on fat or calories)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 Tbs. fresh basil (lemon or lime basil works great if you have some growing in your garden)
  • Big handful of fresh mint leaves only – no stems (orange or lime mint is perfect)
  • 2 Tbs. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • Pepper to taste

If you hate hot foods you can leave this out completely or choose a mild variety like a banana pepper. If you like it hot I recommend the heirloom variety Bulgarian carrot pepper. Really any hot or mild pepper you like or just have lying around would work fine, but it needs to be fresh. Don’t forget to use gloves if it is an extremely hot variety so you don’t transfer the oil to your skin. It’s no fun to rub it in your eye!

Mince the cucumber, green pepper, basil, mint, and cilantro and set aside. Puree everything else in a blender or food processor until relatively smooth. Add in the minced veggies and herbs. Stir with a spoon to mix everything together.

(To make a smooth soup place everything but the cilantro in a blender or food processor, and puree the heck out of it. You will still have specks of tomato, cucumber, and green pepper skins to add a little texture and color. You can keep blending it until it is a smooth as you want it.)

Before serving take a final taste and decide if you need to adjust the salt and pepper, or add any more herbs or lime juice. Once it’s the way you like it, put it in the fridge to chill for an hour or so.

Garnish with the chopped cilantro, and a few sprigs of fresh mint. It will be a beautiful refreshing treat!

Budget Vegan Menu Monday

Since I’m actually going to the gym I need to plan quick and easy food for Tuesday and Thursday.  I ate at home more last week, but hope to up it even more this week.

Breakfasts will be vanilla yogurt covered with berries and even more fruit (maybe a whole wheat English muffin as well). Lunches will be wraps with hummus or veggie blt filling. I’m also planning on grabbing a few things from the freezer to fill out lunch. I ate some yummy chicken-less and stars soup today. It’s nice to have something I liked the first time!

Monday: Creamy, Lemony Asparagus and Veggie Whole Wheat Spaghetti with balsamic marinated heirloom tomatoes over arugula from tiny farm

Tuesday: Potato Kale Enchiladas with cheater canned re-fried beans on the side (made in the slow cooker and freeze some for next month)

Wednesday: Big cooked veggie salad – roasted beets, sweet potatoes, green beans roasted in the slow cooker with fresh herbs and served over lettuce and couscous

Thursday: Kalmata Olive Flat bread pizzas (make on the grill?)

Friday: Grilled Veggie burgers or portabellos  with tots and any left over veggies

Saturday: Asst. chilled salads: potato pesto green bean salad, black eyed pea salad, tofu peanut noodles

Sunday: leftovers – probably enchiladas and tacos

First of June Veggie Menu Planning Monday

I’m so excited that it’s June. We have no trips planned, so I can have a little rest and relaxation at home. It’s also an opportunity for me to work on my budget and getting in shape.

Monday: Mock crab cakes with veggie rice

Tuesday: Sweet potato black bean cakes over cilantro lime rice over salad greens with  corn chips

Wednesday:  Baked Potatoes topped with cheesy vegetables

Thursday:  Quesadillas

Friday:  Veggie burgers on the grill with salad – with sangria or gin and tonics

Saturday:   Pineapple fried rice with Vegan Dad’s Balsamic BBQ Tofu or Maple Bourbon Tofu

Sunday: Riblets and Tots